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The syntactic preferences of Adolf Hitler in his declaration of war on Poland / by Margaret Hodges Eskew.

Publication | Library Call Number: DD247.H5 E77 1990

This two-pronged study first surveys the treatments of language of Adolf Hitler to determine the extent to which modern linguistic principles have been applied to a comprehensive description of his language, illustrates the kinds of linguistic data retrievable from the existing records, examinations, and accounts, and identifies from the survey the preponderance of lexical studies and the dearth of syntactic studies. In the second prong of the study, Hitler's Declaration of War against Poland on September 1, 1939 before the Reichstag in Berlin is analyzed syntactically on the levels of sentences and clauses using an adaptation of phrase structure analysis by Kurt R. Jankowsky, the refinement of nominal constructions by Johannes Erben, and the refinement of adverbial constructions contained in the Duden Grammatik der deutschen Sprache edited by Gunther Drosdowski. The analysis reveals that the language of Adolf Hitler is characterized on the level of sentences and clauses by syntactic preferences. Initial examinations of smaller units of syntax predict that syntactic preferences also exist on the level of constructions. Among these syntactic preferences is an inclination for multiclausal sentences--approximately two-thirds of the sentences in Hitler's Declaration of War on Poland contain two or more clauses, destroying the myth that Hitler himself disseminated and that has been frequently repeated without substantiation--that his language is characterized by simplicity. However, monoclausal and biclausal sentences together account for over 60% of the total number of sentences in the declaration. Hitler exhibited a marked preference for the subordinate clause as a companion clause to an independent clause. He frequently signalled clausal expansion by using a proform without an antecedent or by completely omitting an argument of the verb (most often an accusative argument) in a clause and employing a second clause in its stead. His choice for clausal expansion often reflected specific strategies. He positioned clauses to reflect what he perceived as the non-aggressive victim status of Germany, juxtaposed clauses for rhythmical effects, selected infinitive clauses to avoid naming agents, etc. Hitler's few errors in syntax, particularly in subject-verb agreement, possibly point to his psychological identification with Germany.

Eskew, Margaret Hodges, 1944-
Record last modified: 2018-05-29 16:28:00
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